May 11, 2017

Random Observations From The Empress

I am quickly reminded why I won't book just a single 4 day cruise. We have hardly left Tampa and paper work is delivered for disembarkation. A negative side effect of cruising often, the four day trips just aren't long enough.

So far there have been only a few surprises. Being so small there is no Diamond Lounge or Concierge Lounge. A limited number of free beverages at any of the bars between 5 and 8:30 will have to suffice.

The schooner bar is the largest I have encountered on any Royal ship. Several musicians rotate playing throughout the afternoon and night. As is often the case this is also the location for various trivia contests, and several large screen TV's serve as this also being the Sports Bar for those so inclined. Definitely one of the major gathering spots on the ship, second only to the pool.

The casino has been closed during the day, even during sea days when they usually are quite busy. Workers are feverishly replacing the entire air conditioning system in the casino as the previous system had completely failed. It is rumored that casinos on all the smaller Royal ships are going to become non-smoking. Certainly a good move as the smoke from the casino often wafts throughout other nearby areas of the ship.

We were the first ship into Cozumel, and the last to leave. Actually leaving later than scheduled as two passengers didn't make it back to the ship on time. The captain obviously felt generous as he waited about 45 minutes for them. There was no indication they were on a royal Excursion, usually the only circumstances under which the ship will wait for late arrivals.

So far the weather has been perfect. Temperatures in the mid eighties, with mostly sunny skies. A brief shower when we arrived in Cozumel was insignificant.

Many of you will probably remember issues I have had with cabin keys in the past. This time I encountered a new one. When I boarded the ship for the first time, security was unable to read the bar code on my sea pass card. A detour was required to guest services to get a new card. An extra check in step for me and nearly all other passengers. About a quarter inch gap existed in the bar codes on nearly all the sea pass cards. Hard to imagine someone printed over a thousand cards and didn't notice part of the bar code was missing.

The headliner entertainer last night was a magician/comedian from England. He was good. I haven't seen it yet but we have been told the main production show with the singers and dancers is a scaled down version of the production show that was produced for the Quantum of the Seas.

My intentions were good to see the production show, but I went to the dining room with friends instead. Prime rib, three cheese tortellini, and lobster tail were the favorite choices. I restricted myself to the tortellini as an appetizer and prime rib. The others all had two or three lobster tails each! I have two more chances to see the show. I am learning I am not the only frequent cruiser that usually goes to the buffet instead of the dining room. Every frequent cruiser on board this trip usually goes to the buffet, lobster night being an exception.

Sailing back to Tampa was very smooth, the sea was like glass with barely a ripple on the surface. The disembarking passengers were off the ship by 9:30, and had all cleared customs by 10:00. There are about 20 of us staying on board for the next four day cruise to Cozumel, and we were escorted as a group to clear customs and re-board the ship. A process that took about 30 minutes. We were allowed early into the Windjammer for lunch before other passengers began to board. On larger ships they often have a special lunch in the dining room for back to back cruisers.

My free internet should have expired this morning, but the built in timer says I still have over a day of service left. I will only speculate that the internet connection is so slow, that the internal timers in their software also run extra slow. Technically unlikely, but it is the only explanation that comes to mind at the moment.

We are expected to leave port at 4:00. We are again the only cruise ship in Tampa.